8/16/13: In the garden this week

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My neighbor gave me seeds of this swamp mallow, or hibiscus, many years ago. It’s either H. palustris or H. moscheutos (some books say they’re actually the same species), and various plants pop up across the two gardens, with flowers in pink, white, and white with red centers. They have no business doing well here. These are marsh plants, and our soil is sandy and bone-dry. But there they are, up to six feet high and with flowers the size of dinner plates. (These guys are flopping a bit after one of the recent rains.)

We’ve been having remarkably cool weather. In general, this is great for the garden–pests and diseases will be discouraged, and bloom periods will be extended. However, your plants’ physiological processes will work more slowly than usual in summer (the flip side of extended bloom periods): fruit will take longer to ripen. So don’t expect bowlfuls of tomatoes every day, even though it is mid-August.  But don’t worry. temperatures are supposed to go back to the high 80’s next week.

– start planting your fall vegetable garden: cool-weather crops such as lettuce, arugula, peas, and mustards (brassicas).

– keep the grass long (3″ or more) to reduce mowing times. Mow with a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the lawn, where they will serve as natural fertilizer. There is no need to fertilize or water. We received about 2″ of rain this week.

– as perennials finish blooming, leave the dead flowers on the plants. Collect seeds as they ripen throughout the season; let most remain to feed the birds next winter. For most perennials, I will not remove any growth until early next spring.

– the ground is nice and damp, making it easy to weed, so get rid of the summer’s growth of weeds while they are small enough to pull out easily. It’s great exercise!

– harvest squash and beans before they get large and tough. Pull up bean plants when they stop producing.

– continue to stake tomato plants firmly as they grow and remove all suckers. Now that plants are producing fruit, cut back on watering to prevent cracking. Given the amount of rain we have received this week, there is no need to water.

– monitor the garden carefully for pests and diseases; remove and discard infected leaves on vegetable plants.

– identify pests before taking action: most insects are harmless or beneficial, and many harmful ones can be easily removed by hand-picking.

– take advantage of the relatively cool weather to do garden chores: carry out remedial or cosmetic pruning as needed.

And as always, enjoy the weekend in the garden!

 

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